The Carolina Hurricanes find themselves in the Lion's Den, or rather the Shark Tank tonight, as they face arguably the best team in the league, the San Jose Sharks for the second game of their three game West Coast roadie. The Sharks have an unbelievable home record of 23-2-2, although they lost their most recent home contest to the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday night.
The Hurricanes leading scorers, Ray Whitney and Eric Staal have 42 and 38 points respectively.
|2008 - Ray Whitney||52||16||26||42||-12||16||3||0||1||1||150||10.7|
|2008 - Eric Staal||52||22||16||38||5||34||9||0||6||0||221||10.0|
The Sharks, Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau lead the way with 56 points and 53.
|2008 - Joe Thornton||48||12||44||56||23||40||5||0||3||0||80||15.0|
|2008 - Patrick Marleau||48||26||27||53||22||10||6||3||8||1||168||15.5|
The last time these two clubs met was during the 2006-07 season when Carolina won a 6-4 "skate and shoot" contest at the RBC.
Matt Cullen currently has a 3 game point streak, while Joe Corvo and Ray Whitney have points in the last two games. Cam Ward is expected to make his 18th consecutive start, although Paul Maurice teased the other day about possibly starting Michael Leighton. With Maurice, it's hard to tell if he's joking or serious.
((UPDATE)) Canes Now is reporting that Michael Leighton will indeed get the start. Time to consider betting "the over". Leighton has not started since 12/23/08.
Rod Brind'Amour was sent home with an undisclosed injury, joining teammates Dennis Seidenberg, Scott Waker, and Niclas Wallin on the shelf. Bryan Rodney, (who earned his first career NHL point in Vancouver), will see time on the blueline while Jakub Petruzalek and Michael Ryan will fill in on the fourth line. Look for Brandon Sutter to get some extra time in this affair. Sutter, LaRose, and Eaves have had good chemistry together before, it wouldn't surprise me to see them break out tonight. The lines should be as follows:
- Staal, Samsonov, Ruutu
- Cullen, Whitney, Williams
- Sutter, LaRose, Eaves
- Petruzalek, Ryan, Bayda
The Canes lost their last game in Vancouver because of mistakes which caused a last minute short-handed goal. Can they put that heartbreak behind them and concentrate on the task at hand?
Adam was nice enough to provide another scouting report:
So how can the Hurricanes beat a team that has lost only 12 times (including OT losses) all season? The best way to do this will be to keep control of the puck. One way to do that will be to win faceoffs but the Hurricanes are without one of the best in Brind'amour. Winning faceoffs leads to puck possession so Cullen, Staal, and Sutter will have to step up their game tonight and win some key faceoffs. Just so our Caniac nation knows how difficult this task will be, the Sharks are second overall in the NHL in faceoff percentage at 53.2%, while the Canes are 11th at 50.2%.
Next key will be to not make this a special teams game. The Sharks rank in the top 5 in both Power Play Percentage and Penalty Kill Percentage. The Hurricanes power play has struggled and while the penalty kill has looked better they need to stay out of the box (which they usually do) and if they do draw penalties, they must score to win. With that being said the Sharks are also one of the best 5 on 5 teams in the NHL. Again puck possession will be the key to win this game.
The Sharks also have 2 of the top 15 scoring defenseman in the NHL and Dan Boyle (who is one of the 2) is expected back in the lineup tonight after missing 3 games. The Canes will need to forecheck and try to create some turnovers. Since the Sharks do like to activate the D from the point, the Hurricanes will have to be active in the defensive zone and backcheck and make sure the "back door" is not open as the Sharks like to use that.
What To Watch: While Evgeny Nabokov has been Vezina like this season, he does have weaknesses. His biggest weakness is his positioning. Since he has a flair for the acrobatic save, he can get out of position and does not have Tim Thomas or Dominik Hasek like ability to get back in the play. If the Hurricanes can generate good scoring chances, they can get Nabokov out of position and hoepfully capitalize.
Nice job Adam!
For a view from the dark side, check out Fear The Fin.
It's a very late start at 10:30, but the game will be broadcast by FS Carolinas.
We will have another "Live Game Thread" tonight here at Canes Country, so join us if you can. We had a lot of fun during the Vancouver game.